Inspirational Friendship

About Vi

“My son! My son! You finally came to see me!”

A very old woman tries to scoot her braked wheelchair forward. She’s gripping the arms so hard, her knuckles turn white. Tears course down her crepey cheeks, even as she smiles. 

An attendant in happy-face scrubs pads up to her, the non-skid soles of her shoes squeaking on the speckled linoleum. 

“Now, Vi, don’t bother him. He’s here making a delivery.” The attendant smiles and pats the woman’s shoulder.

“Not coming to see me? Dennis!” she wails. “Can’t you stay and visit?”

The man with the clipboard is not her son. His name is not Dennis. He’s here just to deliver a package. He’s uncomfortable, and he wants to be on his way. 

The place is infused with the perfume of old age. Top notes of cinnamon-apple scented air freshener can’t mask the odor at the heart of it, the sharp smell of disinfectant. Enduring base notes include a whiff of urine along with some indefinable combination of medications and brown gravy endemic to care homes.

The receptionist — Maggie, according to her badge — is talking into her headset while tapping on the computer keyboard. She glances at the delivery man every so often.

“Dennis!” The woman in the wheelchair sobs, this time catching the notice of the waiting man. He tries to look toward her without being obvious. She notices, and holds out her arms. “My son!”

“Uh…” He pauses, unsure how to respond. “I’m sorry, I — ”

The attendant gives him a lopsided smile and steps over to him.

“She does this all the time. It’s so sad… Her son died, and she doesn’t remember. She looks for him in every man she sees, but they aren’t usually a match.”

Maggie is off the phone.

“Did you need a signature?” she asks.

He hands her the clipboard and sets the box on her desk.

“Oh, good!” She smiles. “We’ve been looking for this.”

Before he goes out the door, he turns — perhaps to leave a smile for Vi, the woman who waits for a son who will never come to visit.

She isn’t there. Someone has moved her out of sight. But he hears, faintly, a voice quavering, “Dennis! Come back!”

He goes on his way, but can’t forget the poor old woman. Does she have no one? Someone must be responsible for her. Maybe she has a family who cares about her. Perhaps they visit regularly. But she can’t reconcile the absence of her son.

The delivery man is still thinking of Vi that evening, when he gets off work.

“You’re quiet,” observes his wife. “Hard day?”

He doesn’t answer immediately. He’s staring into space. Then, he nods.

“There was a woman at the care home where I delivered a package,” he says quietly. “She thought I was her son.”

“Oh? Do you look like him?” she wonders.

“He died. She doesn’t remember, and she looks for him.” He closes his eyes. “I can’t get her off my mind. I feel — like I need to do something for her.”

After dinner, he calls his own mother.


At lunch time the next day, he stops at a park near the care facility. He eats hurriedly and checks the time. He can afford fifteen minutes.

He jogs to the entrance. The door slides open with a pneumatic whine, and he enters the lobby. It’s empty this time, except for Maggie behind the desk.

She looks up.

“Do you have another delivery?”

She can see that he’s carrying nothing. She’s puzzled.

“No,” he answers. “I came to see about Vi.”

“About Vi? But you’re not — ”

“Does she ever have visitors?” he interrupts. 

“Not often. She has family, but they get busy with their own lives.” She shrugs. “When they do come, she doesn’t remember anyway.”

“Would it be all right,” he asks, “If I come tomorrow and bring lunch to share with her?”

Maggie’s eyebrows go up.

“Um, well… I guess so. I don’t see why not.”


“Vi! Wake up, sweetie — let’s get you dressed!” The attendant greets her charge with a bright smile.

Vi frowns, trying to get her bearings. 

“Oh. Oh, you look familiar. You’re…?”

“Kim, sweetie. I help you every day.”

They have this conversation every day.

But today is a special day.

“Vi, how about this pretty rose print dress? I think it suits you.”

“Why am I getting dressed up? Is it my birthday?”

“No — but you’re having a visitor at lunchtime! How about that?”

Vi’s face lights up, and she grasps Kim’s hand with both of hers.

“My son is coming! Dennis is coming, isn’t he?”

Kim is silent for several seconds.

“No,” she finally replies. “It’s not your son. But I think you’ll enjoy the visit anyway.”

Vi’s shoulders slump, and she works her lips. She sniffs and emits a heavy sigh.

“Well, all right then. Let’s get me presentable.”


The delivery man feels a little nervous. He isn’t sure why, except that he’s never done anything like this before. 

Vi is not intimidating. She’s a sad, lonely old woman who will never stop missing her son. He can never fill that place, but he can be a friend. He doesn’t want to disappoint her.

One of his stops is next door to a florist. On impulse, he goes in and buys a miniature rose bush. The tiny pink blooms look fragile and delicate, like Vi. He hopes she likes roses.

He sees her through the glass, waiting in her wheelchair. He holds the rose bush carefully in one hand and the lunch bag in the other, glad that the door has a sensor.

Vi is staring eagerly toward the door, hunched forward, wringing the hem of her sweater. Kim stands to one side of the wheelchair, an arm resting protectively across Vi’s shoulders.

He feels like he’s moving in slow motion. It’s only about twenty steps from the entrance to Vi’s chair, but on the way innumerable thoughts present themselves in rapid succession.

What if she thinks he’s Dennis? Should he play along, or disillusion her? What if she refuses to have lunch with him? What if she wants him to leave? What if she doesn’t want him to leave?

He realizes that he’s standing dumbly in front of Vi, and holds out the miniature rose bush.

“Hello, Vi, I’m Dave. I thought you might like roses…?”

Kim reaches out for the dainty pot, smiling.

“I’ll take it to her room. Good choice; she loves roses, don’t you, sweetie?”

“I do! Thank you for that! I don’t know why you’re bothering with an old woman you don’t even know,” she mused, “but —” her eyes sparkled with anticipation. “I hear you brought lunch?”

“I’d like to get to know you, Vi. Let’s go eat!”

Tomorrow, she may not remember today. But today is enough.

December 05, 2022 23:16

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Zoe Gangell
05:52 Dec 15, 2022

An amazing story and great insight into not only loneliness from old age, but grief and loss. Dementia is certainly a horrible condition and I think you have captured its full weight on, not only individuals, but loved ones as well (even though Dave only begins his friendship at the end, you hint at how he will need to continuously start this friendship again and again with the final sentence). The tense atmosphere as he approaches the nursing home was a great build up, and made her acceptance of him all the more satisfying and heartwarmin...


Cindy Strube
08:10 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you for the read and the very nice comment! It’s sad when the elderly are forgotten, even if they don’t remember what’s going on. I’m happy that you felt what I was trying to portray in the characters of Dave and Vi!


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Michał Przywara
21:41 Dec 08, 2022

Sweet and sad, and surprisingly a little tense too. The tension comes from Dave's initial reaction for being mistaken for Dennis. His discomfort comes through. But curiously, he doesn't seek to eliminate the discomfort, but instead explores it, and it leads to arguably a happy ending. Dave has grown, and Vi is less lonely, at least for a time. "Tears course down her crepey cheeks" that's an unexpected, and striking description. "Does she have no one?" There are some very uncomfortable questions around aging. The kind most of us defer thi...


Cindy Strube
04:47 Dec 09, 2022

I appreciate the thoughtful comments! Not sure about entering this one, but I just wanted to write it. I don’t typically write “sad”, but it’s an integral part of many aging people - and I wanted to give Vi a little bit of cheer to counter it. I’m glad to know Dave’s discomfort shows, as well as the change. I struggled with how to end the story, so I’m pleased that it works. Vi’s story was inspired by an experience my dad had when I was a kid, and I’ve heard him tell it several times. (He’s a storyteller too, but not the writing kind.)


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Amanda Lieser
15:04 Mar 24, 2023

Hey Cindy, Oh this one was precious. I loved the way this story unfolded and how impactful these characters are for one another. I loved the way these souls connected in a way that isn’t often written about. I thought you portrayed Vi beautifully-the way you addressed her world was poetic in its heartbreak. You did a beautiful job of showing the humanity beneath the disease. Nice work!!


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